Migration is essential to keeping the population of Australia at a level that supports the nation’s economy. With the closing of international borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, migration has collapsed. Migration figures are unlikely to reach the forecasts made by the Australian Government for the rest of the 2020s according to an immigration expert.
The Australian border closed in March to non-residents and non-citizens. Movement into and out of the country collapsed from April onward. The result was that overseas migration fell to almost zero in May according to immigration minister Alan Tudge. Net overseas migration balances the number of people entering Australia with those who are leaving Australia for 12 months or more.
For the short term, this number is likely to stay low. Scott Morrison has admitted that next year net overseas migration will fall to 34,000. This is in stark contrast to the more than 200,000 in net overseas migration in 2019. More than 320,000 left Australia last year while 553,500 entered into the country. This accounts for 60% of the population growth in the country.
The Australian Government has forecasted 270,000 net overseas migration for 2019-2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abul Rizvi, a former immigration department deputy secretary, said that even if Australian borders open back up and the pandemic ends, Australia is unlikely to see the forecasted government figure for the rest of the 2020s due to a weakened economy.
“I don’t think, during the decade of the 2020s under current policy settings, there is any chance of us getting back to above 200,000 net migration”
In fact, if current temporary entrants to Australia leave the country, net overseas migration may go into the negative figures.
International students make up the largest group of migrants no longer entering the country. In recent years, this group has made up 40% of migration according to Rizvi.
Working holiday, temporary visitors, and skilled temporary entrants are also no longer entering the country. Rizvi said that the offshore humanitarian program also seems to have stopped.
Furthermore, the processing of permanent visas has slowed down with partner visas “stopped or gone very, very, very slow” according to Rizvi.
Despite the regulations around entering the country, some entry is allowed for those on temporary visas who provide essential services.
Net overseas migration does not measure short-term international travel. However, this has also stopped completely.
Short term visitors fell 99.7% in April from over 700,000 in April 2019 to 2,200 in April 2020. And Australian’s returning home from overseas dropped 98.1% from over 900,000 in April 2019 to 17,000 in April 2020.